Where to Stay in the Santa Ynez Valley: Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort

Retreat to Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort: Unplug and Unwind in the True Wild West

As a full-time entrepreneur, I'm always connected to the outside world in some way, whether it's through social media, texting, emails, etc. I'm always ON. It's kind of exhausting sometimes! Amirite fellow entrepreneurs?!

After spending some time in the heart of Santa Barbara, I wanted to take a break from the urban lifestyle for a bit, which is something I rarely do. I was ready to test my limits and go "off the grid" for few days. I get so used to the comforts of city living that I forget how necessary it is to just unplug and unwind for a bit! I wanted to have an experience where I could really immerse myself into California's rich, western culture and retreat into the depths of the countryside.

I came across the iconic Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort and instantly loved what I saw. This secluded, romantic ranch and resort is tucked away in the Santa Ynez Valley (aka Santa Barbara's premiere wine country) and sits upon a property of over 10,000 acres. The spirit of the Old West is alive and well at this seductive getaway, which has even been a hotspot for old Hollywood royalty (à la Clark Gable and Doris Day) since their doors opened in 1946. With all the lush, rolling hills, natural beauty, and wide-open spaces, I knew it would be the perfect place for Jay and I to get some R&R for couple of days.

Escaping into the True Wild West

We've all seen the old movies and pictures of the "Wild West," but how many of us have actually experienced it? Can you imagine a life where you wake up early to the sounds of the birds flying around the crisp, cool morning air? A morning when you can practically smell the beads of dew that sit on the grass... And as you smell the fresh dew, you start to hear the sounds of the animals on the ranch waking up and moving around. You go outside to see the sun peaking out on the green, rolling valleys and you know it's going to be another beautiful day. Well that, my friends, is exactly the life you get to experience when you come to Alisal for a visit.

I was almost on sensory overload with all the natural beauty that surrounded me at the resort! From the moment you pull up to the property, which is about an hour away from downtown Santa Barbara, you're greeted by lush, open fields that are filled with magnificent horses and cattle that are grazing the property. On one side of the road, you see the large, wood barn and stables where the animals roam freely in their spaces. On the other side, you see all of the charming guest cabins and accommodations surrounded by beautiful trees in bloom with colorful flowers dancing around them. It instantly felt like we had left the world we knew behind us and entered a bygone era of the authentic Wild West.

A Luxurious "Camp for Adults"

After you drive up to the main office and get all checked in, you're given the key to your guest room and access to the grounds, where a whole other world awaits you. As you enter your room, you're immersed into a stylish and spacious accommodation that is filled with authentic Western decor, a wood-burning fireplace, and even a private outdoor seating area.

Every room comes equipped with its own little "kitchenette" that includes a small refrigerator and coffee maker, wood for the fireplace, and all of your other typical in-room amenities. One thing that is unique about the accommodations here is that there are no televisions or phones in the guest rooms. Alisal does this to maintain the integrity of the true ranch experience. It definitely helped me "unplug and unwind." 

Once you're all settled into your adorable new room and you're ready to explore, you have virtually every outdoor activity you could imagine available to you. You could go horseback riding, hit up the tennis courts, go for a hike, swim at the pool, play a round of golf, take your shot at archery, go for a bike ride, fish on the lake, have a picnic... The list goes on and on! You could even take a break and get a massage at the spa, play some Ping-Pong or pool in the Billiards Room, or go to the gym and have a nice workout. It was seriously like we were in a luxurious camp for adults! There was so much available to us, and we didn't have to respond to anyone in the outside world! HOORAYYYY!

How to Spend Your Time Here

What I loved most about visiting Alisal is that we never had to leave the resort for anything. It was truly an immersive ranch experience that did not require us to go far for anything we wanted to do. All of our activities were right there, all of our dining options were steps from our front porch, the wonderful staff was incredibly responsive and attentive to anything we requested, and best of all, we spent all the time we desired in the gorgeous nature around us.

The list of things you can do when you visit is so extensive that you really can't go wrong with what you choose. However, these are my personal favorite things to do when visiting Alisal:

  • Experience a Morning Horseback Ride (or any ride for that matter)

One of the most memorable experiences Jay and I had during our stay at Alisal was the morning horseback ride we scheduled on our second day. We arrived early to the stables, where there was coffee and hot chocolate waiting for us. As soon as we got our horses assigned, we were split into our respective groups (either Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced) and sent off on the trail. 

**TIP: Jay and I had both ridden a small handful of times, but weren't sure what the dude ranch equivalent to a "Beginner" was (I seriously thought it was probably some advanced stuff because...you know...it's a ranch and all...), but we put that down anyways. We could have easily been in the Intermediate group because we were more skilled than we thought. So if you have some experience and you're on the fence, just try "Intermediate."

Going along that trail in the morning was one of the most calming and extraordinary experiences I've ever had. The crisp, fresh air, the sounds of the horses walking, the views of the rolling mountains with the sun peaking over them, the trees with the Spanish moss growing all over them... It was breathtaking! I was seriously speechless with the beauty that surrounded me.

Once we reached the end of the trail, we came upon a few small, old cabins with a large outdoor dining area. The Alisal staff was hard at work preparing a massive breakfast feast for everyone to enjoy. The smell of the fresh eggs, the sizzling bacon, the massive buttermilk pancakes with the signature "A" branded in the middle... It was incredible! And to top it all off, they had a man playing guitar and singing country songs, while another man came out to tell some old folk stories. Talk about that "camp for adult" feeling again!

After our bellies were full and our hearts were warm, we got back on our horses and rode back to the resort. The views on the way back were just as spectacular, and we even got the chance to see some of the local cattle and other wildlife during our ride! I could have spent the entire rest of the day riding around the grounds on my wonderful horse, Jesse. If we hadn't already scheduled the rest of our day with activities, we would have immediately signed up to do another ride.

  • Enjoy Fine Dining Cuisine On Site

Let me tell you something... The food here is out of this world. No joke. Jay and I never left one meal feeling dissatisfied or hungry. Everything we had was un-be-lieve-a-bleeee. Plus, breakfast and dinner are both included in your resort package! So make sure you head to the Ranch Room for your meals and enjoy everything your little heart desires.

  • Tour the Grounds

There is so much to explore and do on site at Alisal. But before you get after it, walk around the grounds a little bit and just take it all in! It's not too big to be able to walk from one end of the main property to the other. Walk into the many rooms and buildings, explore the pool, hit some Ping-Pong around, etc. It's really fun to just walk around and explore!

  • Build a Fire in Your Guest Room's Wood-Burning Fireplace

Besides the horseback ride, this might have been our favorite little experience. Since Jay and I are both city dwellers now, we don't have a lot of opportunities to build a real fire in a wood-burning fireplace. It was a really sweet "country" experience for us to have together. Truth be told, I didn't do much (read: anything) besides sit back with a glass of wine and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of the crackling fire. Jay really did all the work here :) But I still loved it so much!! 

  • Retreat to the Post-Dinner Events

After dinner each night, there is typically some sort of entertainment in the magnificent Oak Room, which is just down the hall from the Ranch Room. It's a nice spot to come and sit by the fire, grab a drink, and listen to whatever type of entertainment they may have.

During our stay, we had the pleasure of seeing local legend, Bill Powell, play some beautiful piano songs. I actually cried because it was so lovely! Bill has been playing at Alisal for several decades now and is known to many guests. He was so sweet too!

You can also head to the Library after dinner if you want some adults-only time (and access to a TV!), or head to the Billiards Room for some post-dinner games. Either way, you can't go wrong with what you choose!

Other Notable Mentions:

  • Hit the Tennis Courts

  • Play a round of Golf

  • Schedule a massage at the spa

  • Take the shuttle lake (where you can fish, picnic, or explore)

  • Try your best at Archery

  • Take a small boat on the lake

  • Go for a bike ride around the property

  • Take a run around the property

  • Watch the sunset from your patio

  • Head to the gym for a workout

Good to Know Information

  • Breakfast and dinner are both included in your rate, but alcohol is not. Like I said before, the food is incredible and you're never going to leave hungry.

  • Adults and children are expected to keep a semi-formal attire for dinner. Men must wear sport coats or blazers. *I really loved this rule! Everyone looked so wonderful and dressed up for dinner. Why don't more places do this nowadays?!

  • Lunch can be found at any of the four restaurants on site. If you're heading to the lake for the afternoon, you can even order a boxed lunch to be delivered during your excursion!

  • Before and/or after dinner every night there is typically some sort of entertainment in The Oak Room Lounge (which is such a stunning room). It becomes adults-only after 9pm!

  • There is another adults only Library that is located just across the lawn from the main dining building. It's a nice place to go and hang out or watch TV. Yes, one of the few TVs on the property!

  • Every day you are given an itinerary of events that are happening around the resort. It's helpful to keep handy if you want to know where and when everything is going on (i.e. meals, activities, etc.)

  • Wi-Fi is included throughout the property, but remember you're there to relaxxxx! Enjoy yourself and unplug for a bit :)

After our time at Alisal, I felt relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to head back into the city. It was such a wonderful, romantic escape and an incredible experience to be part of. Who knew that this little city girl could actually come to love the country?! I'm definitely looking forward to returning to Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort again, perhaps next time with my whole family in tow!

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort
1054 South Alisal Rd
Solvang, CA 93463
(805) 688-6411



Thank you to Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort for hosting our stay. And a special thank you to all of the incredible staff members who made our visit spectacular. This post may include affiliate links, which comes at absolutely no cost to you. All proceeds go directly back into maintaining this website and making it better for you. All opinions are my own.